I take a journalism and ethics class. It’s quite good fun. Arguments, raised voices, philosophical debate, the kind of stuff that - when mixed with a Jamba Juice Energy Boost - really gets the blood flowing. I happen to have this class with a couple of other Eagle columnists and editors too, and I learn quite a bit. For example, I have learned about the positive ethical ramifications of ombudsmen.
If you’re not in the know (and I wasn’t), an ombudsman is like a newspaper watchdog that is employed by a paper. They check for errors and serve as a bridge between the newspaper and its consumers/readers. I, for obvious reasons, don’t have the ethical qualifications to serve as an ombudsman. I was, however, intrigued by the thought of using my position in the paper to shamelessly bite the hand that feeds me whenever I was short on ideas.
The result is a column written slightly past deadline that serves to shamelessly criticize my editors.
Though my journalism and ethics class did influence my decision to write this column, I was more inspired by seeing my family on Thanksgiving break. My entire family reads my column. I am incredibly uncomfortable with this and every Monday my mother calls to yell at me about being nicer to people. Incidentally, my grandparents love it. One particular grandparent is a bit of a smart aleck, however, and he noticed that in one column I used the word “connotate.” That word is in quotations both because I am using it in a certain context and because IT’S NOT A REAL WORD. Feeling slightly embarrassed, my grandfather reminded me of the word “connote,” a word that just happens to be actual English. I had a similar problem with my opening column when I used the word “smelt” instead of the grammatically correct “smelled.”
Where the hell were my editors on this!? Instead of giving thanks for the things I am truly grateful for (like Yankee steroid scandals), I was defending myself from the barbs of a family so cruel that it produced a person like me. Unfortunately, this follows a trend. I am not edited for grammar, only content. I make enough mistakes that I should be checked for both, but The Eagle would rather me write stupidly instead of offending someone.
My favorite example of this is when I was not allowed to use the word “d——-baggery.” I made up a swear word and it got edited out! This was in the same column where I accused freshmen of being terrorists! Sex columnists can cuss and swear and drop f-bombs, but I can’t say “d——-baggery!” I understand the need to avoid offending someone, but my column appears in the same publication as a column with legitimate profanity. Why is it offensive for me, and not for them?
There have been other strange examples of this. Last column, I was allowed to make fun of part-time Student Confederation Vice President and full-time line cutter Jason Trombley, but not of President Kanneth’s campaign manager and illegitimate former Board of Elections chairman Marc Malon. I also am not allowed to call Yankees fans bad names, but I sort of understand that. Yankees fans aren’t very thick-skinned ... and they root for cheaters.
I did some research in a couple of classes I have with Eagle writers. I got a load of stories of editing gone bad. Most of these stories pre-date the current editorial staff, but they’re still funny. One writer criticized a band for appearing intoxicated on cocaine during a show. The cocaine reference was edited out.
Another writer wasn’t allowed to say “street cred” because it would confuse the readers. They changed it to “street credentials.” I assume enough of you know what “street cred” means to understand how ridiculous and unnecessary this change was. I once had one editor who, when asked for funny editing stories, admitted that he was always more concerned with how I formatted my column (“Only one space after periods!”) rather than with my “crappy content.”
I understand The Eagle wants legitimacy, and the editors really are doing a great job. I have only had a couple of problems, and I have been writing this column since September 2003. That doesn’t excuse the fact that I am a columnist, and, for the most part, should only be edited for grammar. It also doesn’t excuse the policy of allowing sex columnists to offend others’ sensibilities. I mean, did you read that threesome column with characters called “The Tongue” and “Maverick” - the one in which she describes the eroticism of drunkenly making out with Marines, like it was something to be proud of? I hope her family doesn’t read her column like mine does, because her grandparents have nothing to be proud of.
Lester Russell Allen IV is a senior CLEG major and history minor. The Rusty Nail’s last column of the semester runs next Monday.
Editor’s Note: The Eagle edits every article for spelling, grammar, libel and Associated Press style. The Eagle does not print obscenities unless they are included in quotations from others and further the story. The Eagle editors decided to make an exception to this policy in two instances with the column Caught with Your Pants Down at the beginning of this semester. Questions on The Eagle’s editing policies can be directed to x1402.